WASHINGTON (TIP): A drained and dwindling group of Democrats, some draped in blankets and toting pillows, carried their remarkable House floor sit-in past daybreak June 23, disrupting the business of Congress in the wake of the Orlando shooting rampage with demands for gun-control votes in an extraordinary scene of protest broadcast live to the world.
Unyielding Republicans who control the chamber branded the move a publicity stunt and summarily adjourned the chamber at around 3:15 am. EDT until after the Fourth of July. By 6:30 am. Thursday — 19 hours after the protest commenced— some 16 Democrats remained including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, giving speeches that mixed victory declarations with vows to never back down in their drive to curb firearm violence.
“While the Americans don’t always expect us to win, they do expect us to fight,” said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, as dawn broke and the few remaining lawmakers sat in a paper-cluttered chamber beneath empty visitor galleries. “We demonstrated to the American why we can’t get votes on common sense safety measures.”
When Republicans streamed to the exits hours earlier, Democrats remained on the House floor, shouting “No bill no break!” and waving papers with the names of gun victims written in black. Rep. Maxine Waters of California said she was ready to stay “until Hell freezes over.”
With a crowd cheering them on from outside the Capitol and many more following the theatrics on social media, Democrats declared success in dramatizing the argument for action to stem gun violence. “Just because they cut and run in the dark of night, just because they have left doesn’t mean we are taking no for an answer,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.
Republicans fiercely resisted the Democratic pressure, saying their colleagues had accomplished nothing other than disrupting the business of the House to score political points. House Speaker Paul Ryan called it “a publicity stunt.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who had participated in the civil rights sit-ins in the South in the 1960s, said Democrats had “crossed one bridge.”